Viking Weapons List: The Tools of Norse Warriors

Viking Weapons List: The Tools of Norse Warriors

The Vikings, seafaring people from the late eighth to early 11th century, have long captured the imagination of many. Their expeditions, trading, and raids played a significant role in shaping Europe’s history. Central to their fearsome reputation were the weapons they wielded. This article delves deep into the arsenal of Viking weaponry, highlighting their unique construction, usage, and historical significance.

Understanding Viking Warrior Culture

The Viking warrior culture was integral to Norse society, reflecting values, beliefs, and social structures that transcended mere combat and conquest. Understanding this culture requires delving into various facets that defined the Viking way of life.

Honor and Bravery:

Honor and bravery were central to the Viking warrior ethos. A warrior’s reputation was based not only on his success in battle but also on his courage, loyalty, and adherence to a moral code. A fearless death in battle was considered the ultimate honor, leading to Valhalla, the warriors’ paradise.

Weapons and Equipment:

A Viking warrior’s weapons were more than tools for warfare; they were symbols of status and identity. A finely crafted sword, for example, indicated a high rank and was often treated with reverence. Even the act of gifting a weapon was imbued with social and spiritual significance.

Warrior Societies and Brotherhoods:

Many Vikings belonged to tight-knit warrior groups known as ‘hirds’ or ‘fellowships.’ These groups operated on loyalty and mutual support principles, often bound by oaths and rituals that transcended family ties.


The enigmatic berserkers were a unique aspect of Viking warrior culture. These warriors were said to enter a trance-like fury in battle, displaying astonishing strength and fearlessness. The exact nature of the berserkers remains a subject of debate and fascination.

Women Warriors:

Recent archaeological discoveries have challenged traditional gender roles in Viking society, suggesting that women may have also participated in warfare. This adds a new layer of complexity to our understanding of Viking warrior culture.

Warfare Tactics and Strategies:

Viking warfare was not just about brute strength; it involved strategic thinking and adaptability. Their naval expertise, siege tactics, and ability to utilize various terrains demonstrate a sophisticated approach to warfare.

Spiritual Beliefs:

The spiritual dimension of Viking warrior culture was profound. Warriors sought the favor of gods like Odin and Thor, performing rituals and sacrifices before battles. Weapons were often considered sacred and were treated with a mix of reverence and pragmatism.

Understanding Viking warrior culture is a complex endeavor, encompassing not only the martial aspects but also the social, spiritual, and intellectual facets of Norse life. From their honor-bound ethos to their sophisticated weaponry and tactics, the Viking warriors were a product of a rich and multifaceted culture that continues to captivate and inspire. Whether through archaeological discoveries or the sagas penned by the skalds, the legacy of the Viking warriors offers a profound insight into a society where warfare was not merely a means to an end but a defining element of identity and existence.

Swords: Symbols of Status

The sword was more than just a weapon for the Vikings; it symbolized power, prestige, and honor. Only the wealthiest Vikings could afford a well-forged sword; owning one was a sign of status.

Design and Structure: Viking swords typically measured 30 to 37 inches long, with a broad double-edged blade and a pronounced fuller down the middle. The fuller, a groove, was designed to lighten the sword without compromising its strength.

Significance: In Viking culture, swords were often named, and these names often held deep personal significance. They were passed down as heirlooms, cherished possessions that narrated family histories. The gifting or bequeathing of a sword was a gesture of great respect.

Axes: The Quintessential Viking Weapon

Perhaps the most iconic weapon associated with Vikings, axes were versatile tools of war that every Viking warrior was likely to possess.

Design and Structure: The Viking axe, especially the bearded axe (so named because of its extended lower blade), had a wide, thin blade, making it deadly in combat. Its unique design allowed warriors to hook an opponent’s weapon or shield, rendering them defenseless.

Battle Axes vs. Everyday Axes: While axes were everyday tools, the battle axes were distinct, often being larger and sharper. The Dane axe, for instance, was a two-handed weapon with a broad blade that could easily cleave through shields and helmets.

Bows and Arrows: Long-Range Precision

Vikings were not just melee fighters but adept at long-range combat, too.

Construction: Made from yew, ash, or elm, Viking bows were powerful weapons. The arrows, often tipped with iron or bone, were stored in quivers made of leather or wood.

Role in Warfare: Bows provided Vikings with a tactical advantage, allowing them to weaken or disrupt enemy formations before a confrontation. Arrow storms could break shields, injure or kill opponents, and create chaos in enemy ranks.

Spears: Popular and Versatile

Spears, favored for their reach and versatility, were a staple in the Viking weapon repertoire.

Design and Usage: Typically around 6 to 10 feet in length, Viking spears consisted of a long wooden shaft with a sharp iron or steel point. They could be thrown or used in hand-to-hand combat. A warrior could engage an opponent from a safe distance, keeping them at bay or delivering lethal thrusts.

Social Implications: Spears were more affordable than swords, making them accessible to a broader segment of Viking society. This democratization of weaponry ensured that even those of modest means could defend themselves or participate in raids.

Shields: Defensive Masterpieces

Not just weapons, Viking shields were integral to their combat strategy.

Design: Circular and made of wooden planks, these shields were often covered in leather and rimmed with metal. A metal boss in the center protected the hand and could be used offensively.

Shield Wall: In battle, Vikings often employed the “shield wall” tactic. Warriors would stand shoulder to shoulder, shields overlapping, creating an almost impenetrable barrier. This formation was effective in defense and offense, protecting against arrows and allowing coordinated advances.

Knives and Seaxes: Essential Sidearms

Almost every Viking carried a knife or seax.

Utility: These were primarily tools essential for everyday tasks like preparing food or crafting. However, in close combat, their sharp blades made them lethal weapons.

Significance: A seax, a single-edged knife, was a common possession among Viking men. They were often ornately decorated, indicating their importance in Viking daily life.

The Power of Belief: Viking Weaponry and Religion

The relationship between Viking weaponry and religion is a profound one, reflecting the intrinsic connection between the spiritual and material worlds in Norse culture. Vikings believed that their weapons were more than mere tools for warfare; they were deeply symbolic, often imbued with spiritual significance.

A prime example of this belief can be found in the swords that were often named and considered to possess their own distinct personalities. A warrior’s relationship with his sword was not merely functional but spiritual, and the weapon was believed to be protected by specific gods or goddesses.

Moreover, the Vikings would often perform rituals to consecrate their weapons, seeking the favor of the gods in battle. Some weapons were even believed to be enchanted, carrying unique powers bestowed by divine forces.

This intertwining of belief and weaponry goes beyond symbolism and ceremonial practices; it permeated how the Vikings approached warfare. Their belief in an honorable death leading to Valhalla gave them a unique fierceness and fearlessness in battle. The faith in their gods and the spiritual power of their weapons provided a psychological edge, instilling confidence and purpose.

In essence, the power of belief in Viking society elevated weaponry beyond physical objects, transforming them into sacred instruments that resonated with the spiritual dimension of existence. This integration of faith and arms is a unique facet of Viking culture, reflecting a complex worldview where the divine and earthly realms were intimately connected.

What Was the Vikings’ Best Weapon?

Among the diverse array of weapons wielded by the Vikings, the sword is often considered their best and most iconic weapon. The Viking sword, especially the double-edged variety, represented the epitome of craftsmanship, balance, and effectiveness in combat.

These swords were usually made with pattern-welding techniques, combining different types of steel to create a resilient and sharp blade. They were considered highly prestigious and were often passed down through generations.

But the true power of the Viking sword lay in its versatility. Suitable for slashing, thrusting, and parrying, it allowed the warrior to adapt to various combat situations. The symbolic and cultural significance of the sword in Viking society also contributed to its esteem.

Though axes and spears had their place in the Viking arsenal, the sword’s combination of functionality, artistry, and status arguably made it the most distinguished and effective weapon in the Viking warrior’s repertoire.

What Is the Oldest Viking Weapon?

Determining the oldest Viking weapon is challenging due to the scarcity of preserved artifacts and the complexities of dating such items. However, some of the oldest weapons associated with the Vikings and their predecessors can be traced back to the Vendel period (circa 550-790 AD), which predates the Viking Age.

One notable discovery is the Valsgärde burial site in Sweden, where grave goods from the 7th century included weapons like swords, shields, and helmets. The craftsmanship and design of these items provide essential insights into the weaponry that would later become prominent during the Viking Age.

Among these finds, swords are often considered some of the most archaic artifacts, bearing characteristics that would evolve into the iconic Viking swords. These swords were typically pattern-welded, an ancient forging technique that involved folding and hammering layers of iron and steel. This process provided both strength and flexibility to the blade.

Another remarkable example is the Oseberg spearhead, discovered in the famous Oseberg ship burial, dating back to the early 9th century. Though not the oldest, it’s an exemplary artifact showcasing weapon design and technology continuity.

While identifying a single oldest Viking weapon might be elusive, these archaeological treasures collectively offer a window into the early development of Viking weaponry, illuminating the technological and cultural roots of the fearsome Norse warriors.

Did Vikings Have Steel Weapons? 

The Vikings’ prowess in metalworking and weapon-making is well-documented, but the question of whether they had steel weapons is complex.

During the Viking Age, the knowledge of creating what we consider true steel was limited, and the exact metallurgical composition of Viking weapons varied widely. Yet, the Vikings did utilize a technique called pattern-welding, where they would forge together layers of iron with varying carbon content. This process created a type of steel that was both tough and flexible, ideal for weaponry.

Swords were often crafted with a core of higher carbon steel, providing a sharp edge, while the outer layers might be of softer iron, offering flexibility. This combination allowed Viking blacksmiths to create weapons with qualities resembling modern steel, even if the process and the resulting metal were not identical to what we understand as steel today.

Archaeological findings have uncovered Viking weapons with high levels of craftsmanship, showcasing intricate patterns on the blades created through the folding and forging process. These designs were not merely aesthetic but contributed to the structural integrity of the weapon.

So, while the Vikings may not have had steel weapons in the modern sense, their mastery of metallurgy and forging techniques allowed them to create highly effective weapons using the materials and knowledge available to them at the time. The resulting blades, with their distinctive pattern-welding and remarkable functionality, are a testament to the Vikings’ advanced skills in weapon-making.

What Armour Did Vikings Wear?

Viking armor was a complex blend of practicality and accessibility, reflecting the needs and resources of the Norse warriors. While the popular image of a Viking often includes elaborate helmets with horns (a myth, as no evidence supports such adornments), the reality of Viking armor was far more nuanced.


The most affluent Viking warriors might have worn chainmail, a type of armor made from interlinked iron rings. This provided excellent protection against slashes and thrusts but was expensive and time-consuming to make.

Leather Armor:

More commonly, Vikings would have worn leather armor, sometimes reinforced with metal. This offered a good balance between protection and mobility, making it suitable for the diverse combat scenarios the Vikings encountered.


Viking helmets were typically made from iron and had a simple, functional design. They included a rounded cap to protect the head, often with a guard extending down to protect the nose.


Though not body armor in the traditional sense, shields were essential to Viking defensive gear. Usually round and made from wood reinforced with leather or metal, shields provided protection against both melee attacks and projectiles.


Vikings wore padded clothing underneath their armor, offering additional protection and comfort. This would have been made from natural materials like wool or linen.

In essence, Viking armor was as varied and adaptable as the warriors who wore it. From chainmail and helmets to leather armor and shields, the Viking’s protective gear was crafted to meet the demands of their adventurous and often dangerous lives, reflecting a sophisticated understanding of both warfare and craftsmanship.


The Viking weapons list is an impressive testament to the craftsmanship, tactical understanding, and martial culture of the Norse people. From the sharp edge of their swords to the balanced thrust of their spears, these weapons not only played an essential role in shaping the Vikings’ reputation as fearsome warriors but also contributed to their influence and expansion during the Viking Age.

Combining these various tools allowed the Vikings to adapt to different battle situations, reflecting a complex and nuanced approach to warfare. In understanding these weapons, we gain a deeper insight into the Viking society, their values, and their way of life. The legacy of Viking weaponry continues to inspire fascination and study, underscoring a historical period rich in innovation, conquest, and cultural exchange.